Rwanda's P.E.A.C.E. Gaining Ground

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CBNNews.com  - KIGALI, Rwanda -- It has only been 14 years since the horrific genocide in Rwanda. If ever there was a nation in need of reconciliation and peace, it is this tiny African nation.

The genocide killed nearly 1 million people -- most of them as they sought refuge in their churches.

"They hacked through the walls with axes and then started throwing grenades in. There was blood everywhere. It is sad for me to talk about it," said one genocide survivor.

Today, killers and the victims live side by side, sharing the mental, physical and emotional scars of war.

People Determined to Recover

Recovery is painstaking but the people here seem determined.

"We know that we have a nation to build. And we don't have any luxury to wait until the pain is over. If we are to make a nation, it is now," Anglican Bishop John Rucyahana said.

Simply called The P.E.A.C.E. Plan -- this ambitious effort takes author and pastor Rick Warren's Purpose Driven philosophies to new heights.

Its goal it to mobilize 1 billion Christians worldwide to fight some of the country's biggest foes-poverty, disease, corruption and spiritual emptiness.

Warren is teaming up with Rwandan church leaders to initiate a plan for lasting peace

Purpose Driven Initiative

"We have a preaching, teaching and healing faith. We serve a Savior who was also an educator and a healer," Warren said.

Rwanda became the first nation to sign up and Rwandan church leaders hoping to follow the P.E.A.C.E. to the letter.

"P" stands for promote reconciliation.

"E" equip servant leaders.

"A" assist the poor.

"C" care for the sick.

And the "E" is for educating the next generation.

"I am the 'C'. Caring for the sick," said Cristy Wiggins, a nurse.

Wiggins, a member of Warren's Saddleback Church, took the call to partner with Rwanda seriously.

Back in October, she moved to Rwanda and hasn't been home since.

"I think we are all given gifts and it would be a waste not to use them in a culture that really needs you," Wiggins said.

Wiggins helps the nurses, bringing her experiences working in the states into the small field hospital in the town of Kibuye.

"This is a Rwandese project. I am just here to support them," she said.

Her specific project is called the western Rwanda HIV-AIDS healthcare initiative.

It is a prototype of how the P.E.A.C.E. plan should look and work in other parts of the country.

In this region, only three hospitals to serve hundreds of thousands of people.

Churches into Healthcare Centers

It takes about two days to walk from the villages here in the hills of western Rwanda to reach one of the three hospitals. So, Pastor Warren's idea is to turn the 726 churches in this region into sort-of healthcare centers.

Local Christians learn to use their churches as distribution centers for medicine and basic healthcare.

But the P.E.A.C.E. plan encompasses more than just medical projects.

Short term teams come from the states to help train Rwandans in various business and development projects.

Who does the training?

Well, everyday Christians who have expertise to share -- like businesswoman Marianne Phillips who's teaching women to manage small businesses and earn a sustainable income for their families.

Matching Task to Talent

"There are people on our team from all walks of life," Phillips said. "God does the work of matching task to talent. All we have to do is show up."

It's all about joining churches from the west with churches in other countries.

About 1,000 Saddleback members have become short-term missionaries to churches in Rwanda, helping to lay the ground work for outreach by local believers.

This next step involves bringing the country's three sectors of society together to work on developing the country.

"The component of faith and Christianity, government and business. I don't think you can have better complimentary than having these three things converging to enable people realize their higher goals," said Rwandan President Paul Kagame.

Success here means this P.E.A.C.E. model may be replicated in other countries.

Laying the Groundwork

Saddleback is already laying the ground work for peace to be replicated in 68 countries.

They've sent out nearly 8,000 of their members in small teams around the world.

But for now, they are focusing on Rwanda.

"All five of the things we are talking about in the P.E.A.C.E. plan are being done right now primarily by NGOs -- nongovernmental organizations -- or para-church organizations," author and pastor Rick Warren said. "There are those who plant churches. Those that promote reconciliation, assist the poor, care for the sick. These are all good things, but this is not God's 'Plan A.' God's 'Plan A' has always been the local church," Warren added.

Using the local churches of the west to help the churches of Rwanda turn the killing fields of horror in to places of hope and restoration.

"Right here in this place where once was betrayal, will become a place of blessing. And what was a place of war will become a hallmark of peace and the PEACE plan," Warren said.

*Original posting July 6, 2008.

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